Hot Spot Attracts Whales

Bob Perrycommon dolphins, humpback whales, Painted Cave Santa Cruz Island, Santa Barbara Channel

Hot Spot Attracts Whales


2015 09-03 SB Channel

We spent the better part of an hour trailing 4 humpback whales (we saw 18 total today, with more in the distance) as they migrated west at a pretty fast clip. Tail flukes were sparse and footprints were abundant. Captain Dave decided to head south towards more productive areas (hopefully) and Santa Cruz Island.

At 1130 am Dave put the brakes on (er, pulled the jet buckets down) so we could watch a nice-sized female California sea lion toss around what was left of a fish and then finally swallowed it. It is always great to get first hand looks at the many food chains we have in the Santa Barbara Channel.

One of the several high points of the day was a giant hot spot…hence the headline Hot Spot Attracts Whales.   Actually, there were tons of long-beaked common dolphins (we watched at least 1200 today), more California sea lions, and a variety of seabirds, especially black-vented shearwaters. This hot spot was being mauled by 12 humpback whales which included a few episodes of surface lunge feeding, sideways feeding, and sub-surface feeding. Several white bellies showed long ventral grooves in the blubber as a beast rolled to finish its meal.

Pelagic red crabs were inside the Painted Cave again today as Dave did his now infamous Santa Cruz Island tour, short version. Soon we were heading north and back looking for more cetaceans. Around 130 pm we spotted an area with 2 more humpbacks and another 100 or so dolphins.

You never know what Mother Nature has in store.
Bob Perry
Condor Express